The Hardest Dish Bobby Flay Ever Made On Beat Bobby Flay

Of all the Food Network celebrity chefs, Bobby Flay may have one of the most celebrated culinary reputations. Since the early 2000s, he has published several grilling and barbecue cookbooks and has appeared on dozens of shows including "Iron Chef." Yet, perhaps the biggest testament to his status in the food world occurred when Food Network launched "Beat Bobby Flay," a show where hopefuls aspire to taint Flay's stature as one of the network's leading authorities. In each episode, a rival chef and Flay cook a dish of the contestant's selection with only 45 minutes on the clock. A panel of judges then does a blind taste test to choose the winner.

While Flay has participated in beef Wellington showdowns, pork tostada battles, and étouffée contests, he cited one dish as the most demanding to cook within 45 minutes: lasagna. Flay elaborated on an Instagram story that lasagna's requirements for fresh pasta, homemade sauce, and individually baked portions brought him the most headache in his decade of filming "Beat Bobby Flay."

Why lasagna almost defeated Bobby Flay

In Season 5, Episide 8, Bobby Flay battled chef Gio Osso in a lasagna face-off, with Flay electing a bacon bolognese and béchamel sauce to pair with his pasta. Most pasta sauces need to simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow the tomatoes and aromatics to develop flavor. With only 45 minutes to prepare his dish, Flay had to begin preparing his sauce as quickly as possible to give it maximum simmering time.

Another difficulty of the challenge involved the noodles themselves. While Flay did not make the pasta sheets from scratch, he still opted for a fresh version over the oven-ready boxed variety. He had to therefore devote part of his limited cooking time to waiting for noodles to cook in boiling water. But like Flay, the majority of pro-chefs avoid one lasagna shortcut — using no-boil lasagna sheets. Although these noodles take the boiling step out of the lasagna-making process, they make it more difficult to achieve an al dente texture.

Another factor that makes creating lasagna in 45 minutes difficult even for a trained chef is that Flay had to present the meal in individual portions. Instead of concentrating the layers inside one casserole container, Flay had to ensure the sauce and pasta sheets appeared identical across all plates. For a dish that often comes out of the oven in a bubbling and cheese-stretching mess, his lasagna required some presentation precision.

Flay's pasta philosophy

While Bobby Flay ultimately won the episode of "Beat Bobby Flay," his struggle with lasagna highlights how the classic comfort food may present more challenges than some might expect. However, Flay has some suggestions for making fresh pasta recipes in your own kitchen. Like many chefs, Flay recommends saving your pasta water to add to the final pasta sauce. As he prepared a cherry tomato spaghetti on Instagram, Flay explained that the starchy water not only helps noodles combine with sauce, but it's also a good tool for thinning out sauces to a velvety consistency. 

Flay also endorses testing non-traditional cooking methods in his dishes, however. For instance, Flay skips the olive oil in pasta sauce; he often opts for sauteing his sauce's building blocks (onions, garlic cloves, and other vegetables) in avocado oil instead. A high-heat oil with a subtle flavor, avocado oil helps vegetables shine and develop their own complexities. Given the challenge of beating Flay in the kitchen, perhaps some of his practices should become mainstream.